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How do you begin to decide between Central and South America?

How do you begin to decide between Central and South America?

Old Mar 5th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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How do you begin to decide between Central and South America?

Hi all,

My husband and I are contemplating a trip to either Central or South America for May 2008 (this May we're headed to Croatia, but despite my excitement for that I must start thinking about the next trip of course!). We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon in 2006 and absolutely adored it (loved the beaches and all the jungle). We've had a few thoughts for a 2-3 week trip next May:

1. Gautemala and Belize
2. Panama
3. Argentina
4. Peru and possibly Bolivia
5. Ecuador

But every time we talk about it we're stuck. I hear from some people that Central America doesn't hold a candle to South America in terms of cultural diversity and overall "wow" factor, so that's definitely a thought in my mind. But we adored Costa Rica and countries like Guatemala and Panama in particular have caught our eye (Guate for the ruins and culture, Panama for the beaches and off-the-beaten-path feel). Belize is slightly less interesting to me as it sounds quite touristy but it would go well with Guatemala.

Now South America I just don't know. It seems like for only 2-3 weeks it's an awful long way to go (we're coming from Western Canada) and that travel distances between places are pretty far...can anyone shed some light on this? Ecuador sounds very cool but we can't afford Galapagos at this point... Bolivia sounds fascinating but somewhat scary. Peru sounds very interesting, as does Argentina. But why do people love them so much? What makes people go to Peru over Guatemala, for example?

Sigh...I'm sure this sounds quite rambling but basically I'm curious how people decide where to go in Central/South America and if many people do feel that South is much better overall?


Amanda23 is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2007, 12:40 PM
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Living in central Mexico, and having lived in and visited Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Belize, kind of a no brainer to go to Argentina and Chile: we loved BsAs and Santiago and are planning to purchase an Apt in BsAs.
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 02:12 PM
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Everyone has their own favorites but I've been all over Europe, Costa Rica several times, Australia and Peru.

Macchu Picchu is just absolutely amazing. Maybe the best thing I've ever seen. I don't even know what is in Guatemala. Besides Macchu there are other great Incan ruins, Nazca lines, great jungles etc.

2-3 weeks! That is more then enough time to enjoy some of South America. If I want to go to the beach, go surfing etc. I would go back to Costa Rica - I've been there twice and love it. But if you want to see Macchu Picchu and other areas of Peru that is a totally different trip. As I'm sure Patagonia, Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina are. But this "doesn't hold a candle" stuff is nonsense. It just depends on what type of trip you would like to go on.
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 03:39 PM
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We have done Guatemala, Peru (yes, Machhu Pichu) and Costa Rica and Guatemala. We took three weeks for each.... Argentina calls.

I am astounded on your comment on what people have told you about the "cultural diversity" and "wow" factor being better in South America vs. Central America.

I would say, come on....the cultures of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula? Have these people looked at the ruins and read the history? Wow! I say.

I don't know Belize...not into resorts, so I usually leave them out. We are on our way next week for 10 days in the Veracruz area. But I would not have missed Takal or Copan or the weaving villages in the hills of Guatemala.

In Peru, I would not have missed three days in the "white city" of Arequipa.

We were in Costa Rica last August. Our daughter and her husband live there, which meant that we had access to information about the pottery villages, etc. as well as the jungle and beaches.

Next....Greece and Turkey. Turkey for the second time. Greece for the first.

I am with you. The next trip is always hard to decide on.

We take two trips a year, so, if you were just married in 2006 I am assuming you are young enough to have many more trips. Enjoy.
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 05:07 PM
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I agree that it's impossible to compare countries judging them with phrases like "doesn't hold a candle." But as someone who lives in Costa Rica, there is a certain "wow" factor in going to South America for me. The countries there are just bigger. That doesn't necessarily mean "better," but I do enjoy the difference.

Random thoughts:

I know many people who try to compare Peru and Guatemala. Both countries wear their indigenous cultures on their sleeves. There's just a lot more to see and do in Peru. It's a much bigger country. That doesn't mean Guatemala isn't wonderful. It really is. (And I'm about to leave on an extended work-related trip there.) You can't go wrong either place if you're interested in indigenous culture and ruins.

Ecuador is another good choice along those lines. It is perfectly acceptable to go to Ecuador and not do the Galapagos. Many people will tell you otherwise, but if budget is a concern, don't do it. It's an expensive add-on to an Ecuador trip. There is so much to see and do in mainland Ecuador that I doubt you'd be disappointed.

Everyone compares Argentina and Chile to Europe. I think that's valid only up to a point. There is more European influence there than in the countries farther north, but I would still never mistake BsAs for Paris. And that's okay. They've taken their European influences and done their own thing with it. That's what makes those countries fascinating to visit.

So you end up compiling suggestions from other people, sifting through them, and choosing a place. As was mentioned above, I'd be wary of recommendations that use qualifications like "It doesn't hold a candle to ..." As was also mentioned above, if you don't make it to Country A this time, you can go next time.

Havng said all that, I will make a recommendation: Peru. It's "foreign" enough from a North American perspective to be utterly fascinating, but not so "alien" that it is difficult to travel there. The country has a well-developed tourism infrastructure and is accustomed to visitors that it can offer a polished product, but without you feeling like you've been dropped into a mob of tourists. It's acheived a nice balance that way.

But wherever you decide to go, I'm sure will be equally great. Do let us know.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2007, 05:48 PM
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I was in Panama some time ago and really enjoyed it. I divided my time between cosmoplitan Panama City and ( a major banking center) & the San Blas islands which were relaxing and fascinating with many archipelagos and hieroglyphics tens of thousands of years old. The people were warm and friendly, lots of good seafood. Interesting local wares. I recommend it. Hope you enjoy whatever you decide on for your trip.
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Old Mar 5th, 2007, 07:04 PM
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Here's a vote for Guatemala and Belize. I'm looking forward to future adventures in some of the other places on your list, but Guatemala is absolutely fabulous and so quick and easy from the states. Belize is not very touristy if you avoid Ambergris Caye and makes a great combination with Guatemala if you want some blue water time. I'm a diver, so that appeals to me. 2-3 weeks is enough time to get a taste of both, though our family felt we barely scratched the surface of Belize in 4 weeks and I'm heading back to Guatemala for my 5th visit this summer. Somehow my travel wish list is getting longer instead of shorter...

Whatever you decide, have a wonderful time and then tell us all about it.
hopefulist is offline  
Old Mar 6th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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Thank you all for the thoughtful replies so far. The varied responses definitely mean that I have a lot of thinking to do before making a decision, but they also reinforce that there is no one right decision and that ultimately both Central and South America have much to offer! And as one of you said, if I don't make it to one country this time, there's always next time! Sigh....if only both money and time grew on trees, I wouldn't have to debate like this!
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Old Mar 6th, 2007, 08:05 PM
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I'm a fan of Mexico myself. But a (well-traveled) friend who recently returned from Ecuador couldn't believe that it was not a more popular destination. I saw her photos, amazing!!!
suze is offline  
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